1. PROPOSED NEW CRIME CAMERA
SURVEILLANCE ORDINANCE RAISES
ISSUES OF PRIVACY
As soon as this week, the New Orleans City Council could consider a measure to mandate cameras outside nearly every bar and restaurant in the city, with feeds automatically sent to the city's recently unveiled crime camera monitoring station as part of a sweeping set of policies and legislation that Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduced in January.
The bill — introduced by At-Large Councilwoman Stacy Head at the request of the Landrieu administration — would require businesses selling alcohol to install outward-facing cameras to supplement the more than 200 city-owned crime cameras.
Head hasn't committed to language from the bill but is "looking forward to hearing more from the administration about how those sections of the ordinance fit in with the overall strategy to reduce crime in New Orleans," according to Head's policy advisor Katie Baudouin. "In the meantime, she's more concerned about government efficiency and transparency."
The bulk of the 22-page bill aims to "streamline" alcohol permitting by transferring issuance of alcohol beverage outlet (ABO) permits from the city's Finance Department to the Department of Safety and Permits as part of the city's "one-stop shop" for licensing and permits.
Baudouin says the administration may ask the City Council to consider the ordinance at its Dec. 14 meeting, though the matter could be deferred to another date or the measure could be referred to the Governmental Affairs committee for a public hearing and debate.
2. Quote of the week
"'Nobody wants to be the buzzkill,' adds Lindsey Reynolds, one of the women who blew the whistle on a culture of harassment at the restaurant group run by the celebrity chef John Besh." — TIME magazine, in its annual "Person of the Year" issue, which this year was dedicated to "The Silence Breakers" — people who have spoken out about sexual harassment. Reynolds was one of the accusers in Brett Anderson's NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune investigation of reported sexual harassment within the Besh Restaurant Group.
3. City 'Blue Bikes' program rolls out
New Orleans officials celebrated the official rollout of a citywide bike rental program Dec. 5, opening 15 kiosks that dispense bright blue cruisers 24 hours a day. Over the next several months, the city expects to open 70 bike stations with 700 bikes. Depending on rider demand, the city could expand to 90 stations with 900 bikes.
The Blue Bikes program operates with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield, with bikes from bike rental company Social Bicycles, which has launched bike rental programs across the U.S. and Canada. According to City Hall, the program is funded entirely through sponsorships, ads and rental fees.
Users must first register via the Social Bicycles app or www.nola.socialbicycles.com. Monthly passes are $15, which allow for one hour of riding per day. A pay-as-you-go rate is available for $8 an hour. All the time used is prorated to the minute. A $20 reduced rate yearly pass is available for residents who sign up using their Louisiana Purchase number. Blue Bikes have GPS tracking, automatic front and rear lights and a three-speed internal hub.
4. JBE assembles sexual harassment task force for state agencies
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order Dec. 6 assigning a seven-member team to review sexual harassment and discrimination policies within state agencies and departments. The task force will review all agencies that fall under the executive branch and "identify which current policies are effective and which ones are not, whether new ones need to be implemented and whether additional changes need to be made in these areas," Edwards said in a statement.
All state agencies within the executive branch have been directed to review their policies and submit them to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne before Jan. 1. The task force will report back to Edwards' office before March 2018.
"Every person, whether they work in state government or private industry, should be able to do their jobs without fear of being sexually harassed or dis- criminated against," Edwards said. "There is no circumstance under which harassment or discrimination of any kind will be tolerated by my administration."
5. Check out proposed designs for new Canal Street ferry terminal
New Orleans residents have a chance this week to take a look at designs for the Canal Street ferry terminal scheduled for construction in 2018. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) holds a design presentation and public comment session on the third floor of the New Orleans Main Library (219 Loyola Ave.) at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12.
RTA seeks public input for a pedestrian bridge, which will run alongside the new ferry terminal for passengers to cross over the Public Belt Railroad tracks, a project that sparked some public and political debate over its price tag and design process, with residents and incoming District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer lobbying for a covered walkway (current designs do not include a cover).
RTA will hold another public hearing on the pedestrian bridge at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 at the Algiers Auditorium (2485 Guadalcanal St.).
6. 'Complete Streets' not so complete, Bike Easy reports
Last year, Jefferson Parish voters approved $58 million for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. New Orleans adopted its Complete Streets ordinance in 2011, ensuring road projects include bike and pedestrian facilities, which have more than doubled since that year. But according to transit advocacy group Bike Easy's 2017 "Complete Streets for Health Equity" report, those resources aren't connecting low-income residents to jobs, or neighborhoods with high rates of chronic diseases to areas with access to healthy foods.
Lower-income people of color also account for a disproportionate number of victims of crashes involving people walking and biking. For example, black residents in Jefferson Parish account for roughly 26 percent of the population but more than 40 percent of bike-related injuries and deaths.
The report recommends New Orleans adopt Complete Streets measures that "prioritize health equity and publicly report progress regularly." The report also calls on local governments to "create a framework to prioritize high-quality Complete Streets connections to the places they are needed most."
7. White House photographer to speak at New Orleans Public Library
Amanda Lucidon, one of the few women photographers to work in the White House (and who spent four years photographing former first lady Michelle Obama) will speak at the New Orleans Public Library's Keller branch Dec. 14.
Lucidon will talk about her recent book Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer, which collects never-before-seen candids of Obama, from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to the White House's South Lawn to a Liberian high school. The book also includes short narratives from Lucidon describing the moment pictures were taken, as well as her personal impressions of the former first lady.
The event is 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is free. Photographs from the book also are on display at the Keller branch from Dec. 11 until Jan. 4, 2018.
8. Let's talk about sex
Louisiana has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in the U.S., but Louisiana doesn't guarantee students will receive comprehensive sex ed, and state law doesn't require schools to monitor whether they're getting it. Geaux Talk — a new public health campaign from the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) — pools resources people need to begin conversations about comprehensive sex ed in schools and at home.
The campaign is powered largely through the results of a statewide survey from LPHI and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, which found 84 percent of Louisiana parents and caregivers believe sex education is an important part of their students' curriculum, and nearly three-quarters of respondents said they believe schools should be required to deliver it. Currently, sex ed in Louisiana schools must promote abstaining from sex before marriage; a comprehensive sex ed program also would include information about contraception and STDs and take a medically accurate approach to sexual health decisions.
The results of the survey likely will be delivered to legislators to prepare for the 2018 legislative session. Nearly every year lawmakers attempt to introduce statewide legislation allowing room for comprehensive sex ed, though they've been routinely challenged by conservative colleagues and lobbying groups.
"What we've learned from previous legislative sessions is that they always say to us ... 'Parents don't want this,'" said LPHI's Raegan Carter. "Then we provide the data that nationally parents do want it, then they sometimes would say, 'What about Louisiana parents?' Now we have that data, that Louisiana parents are right there in line with national data [showing] parents want sex education taught in schools."
9. Hogs for the Cause sets musical lineup for 2018
North Mississippi Osborne, Turnpike Troubadours, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, The SteelDrivers and other country, Southern rock, bluegrass and funk bands will perform at the 10th edition of Hogs for the Cause March 23-24, 2018.
The barbecue festival returns to the grounds adjoining the UNO Lakefront Arena with a few changes in store. Last year, the Friday night event fell during Lent, and many vendors offered seafood dishes. This year, all 85 barbecue teams will offer a bacon-based food item on Friday night. There also will be a Thursday night gala presented by the Link Restaurant Group. It will have a Rat Pack theme, festival director Becker Hall says.
Hogs for the Cause raises money to support families combating pediatric brain cancer. It raised $1.3 million last year.
10. John Cleese is coming back to New Orleans
Comedy legend John Cleese returns to New Orleans in 2018 for a night of storytelling, conversation and an audience Q&A, following his popular 2016 Saenger appearance with fellow Monty Python player Eric Idle. For this solo tour, there's a programming note: "absurd and/or ridiculous questions only, please."
Cleese's appearance at the Saenger Theatre also will include a screening of Python's 1975 classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The show is 8 p.m. Friday, April 6. Tickets are on sale now.